How do you like Legendary Heroes?

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Game visuals: What makes a game’s graphics “dated”?

Posted on Thursday, June 5, 2014 by Frogboy

All games, even the games that looked amazing when they come out eventually start to look “dated” visually.

The challenge isn’t determining whether a game’s graphics have started to get dated looking but what specifically makes a game start to look dated.

Let’s use Legendary Heroes as an example:


What parts of the game look dated today? What parts do you think will look dated in the near future?


16 Engineering hours for LH v1.7

Posted on Thursday, May 22, 2014 by Frogboy


v1.6 of Legendary Heroes seems to have gone well and we’re now moving on to v1.7.  I’m not sure what the rest of the team has in store for that (it’s Kael’s team, I’m just a floater).  But I’ve got 16 engineer hours of my own time for v1.7 and want to make sure every hour is spent well.  I don’t know how many of you are interested in the sausage factory side of game development but if you are, this is a good chance to see it in action.

These are what I’m spending those hours on:


Est Hours Feature Description Status
1 Stamp fix Fix stamp creation for modders, add some new stamps. Done (1)
1 BattleRank overhaul Redo battlerank so that the AI can more intelligently make decisions. Done (1)
1 Leader Update Updated text and specific conversations per player  Done (1)
1 New Spells Add new tactical battle spells/abilities  Done (2)
2 AI tactical Update AI tactical perf  Done (1)
1 Squad size Increase squad size and test  Done (1)
1 Unrest penalties Unrest causes bandits to spawn  Done and then undone (was not fun)
1 Eco balance Update mana/maintcosts/research balance/hero generation  Done (0.5)
1 Wild land menace Wild lands spawn monsters who go after players, get much worse over time.  Done (0.5)
1 AI updates Have AI upgrade outposts, Better army management, Pariden use Arcane monoliths.  Done (1)
1 Gameplay Master Quest harder, Heroes spawn at capital, Nerf consulate, bigger maps  Done (2)
1 Monsters vs. AI Look again to see why AI and monsters aren’t attacking each other (likely a threading issue)  Looked at, hoping new combat rating system might help. (0.5)
1 Pathing Fix the river pathing issue  Done (0.5)
1 Update stamps World less flat, more interesting  Done (1)
 1  Misc.  (bug fixing, fix lockups, lost device, other annoying things I encounter etc.)  Ongoing


Watch this thread for updates. I’m going through this thread here for ideas.

As I finish these, I’ll update the chart to let people know. I don’t really get started on this until next week between meetings, accounting, legal, design, software work, etc. Smile


Update 1: Friday, May 30

Finished the first half day working on this. Some of this isn't taking as long as I expected (marked at 0.5 hours in the status).

Update 2: End of day

Okay, I've got 9.5 hours into this.  The AI is definitely nastier now with the outpost upgrades. The pathfinding is less annoying for me.  I had a hard lock today that I want to put some time into.  I don't want this to just be new goodies, I'd like to fix some bugs that people have reported.


The problem with fantasy games

Posted on Saturday, April 26, 2014 by Frogboy

We’ve been blessed with a lot of fantasy 4X games in the past few years.

Besides the Elemental games we’ve gotten Warlock, Age of Wonders 3, Eador, and soon Endless Legends. If you like fantasy games, I highly recommend checking them all out (except War of Magic which is inferior to all of them).

Unfortunately, as game designers, we have an unusual challenge: Magic.

Magic isn’t fair

It is really really hard to write good AI in a game that literally allows players to conjure up all kinds of game changing stuff.  The granddaddy of this genre, Master of Magic, didn’t really have an AI.  In theory it did but the AI doesn’t really provide a challenge. The game’s amazing game design makes a strong case that it’s the journey that matters, not the destination.  That is, in MOM, winning is a foregone conclusion. Of course you’re going to win. The question is how?

Revisiting Elemental: War of Magic

At the risk of being boastful, as problematic as War of Magic was at launch, it was highly innovative.  The cloth map mode it introduced is kind of expected now.


Elemental: War of Magic introduced the cloth map zoom out concept, now obvious in hindsight


The city building features were pretty amazing

The problems of Elemental: War of Magic could be summed up as follows:  It was a series of interesting game concepts that were not tied together versus computer opponents who weren’t sure what they are supposed to be doing.

If I had to do it over again Elemental: War of Magic would have been bulleted like this:

  • You are a powerful Sorcerer (or sorceress) who must build a kingdom from the ground up
  • Your goal is to be the first to cast the spell of making to take control of the world (not that conquering enemies is NOT a requirement here)
  • To do that you will need to capture the 4 types of Elemental shards: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and construct the Forge of the Overlord
  • You can build alliances with other players who control one or more o those elemental shards who are willing to tie their destiny to yours
  • Those alliances are built through arranged marriages through your dynasty
  • Go on quests to find one of the very few Champions of the world to help lead your armies to secure the land you need to build your cities along with the loot necessary to make your units, champions, and cities more powerful.
  • Your cities provide the units necessary to learn the spell of mastery, construct the forge of the overlord and armies to secure resources that required to do both.

This design takes into account the basic problem in magic games: You can’t make a Civilization style 4X game and have powerful magic at the same time. If the object of the game is to conquer another empire, then you have to deal with balance and magic eliminates that balance.  Conquering other cities should not be the goal in these games. It’s boring and tedious.  It should be optional but not central to whether you win or lose. 

By making magic both the tool AND the goal, you can eliminate mundane balance issues.  Want to protect your capital by surrounding yourself with mountains or ocean? No problem. Go for it.  But you can’t do that if the AI is required to actually conquer your cities in order win. 

If city conquest is the goal, then magic has to be gimped and at that point why have it?


What do you like LEAST about Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes?

Posted on Monday, April 21, 2014 by Frogboy

We had a great discussion about what features of LH players liked the most.

Now, let’s turn it on its head.  What parts of Legendary Heroes do you like the least?

This doesn’t have to be a feature list either, it could be elements of the game (or parts of the game) that you just find boring or frustrating or poorly thought out.

Let us know!


Elemental Status: April 2014

Posted on Sunday, April 20, 2014 by Derek Paxton


This will be a fun week for Legendary Heroes.  On Tuesday we will be release the 1.6 patch as well as updated to the Quest, Loot and Dead World DLC.  Overall this is a balance patch based on lots of playing (this is a process that can go on forever in games like this).  But we also have a few good things in store.

There is a fix that improves the randomness of item generation which is a significant fix, especially if you have the DLC’s (the more items you have, the more problematic the generation would be).  But I’m also excited because we’ve added some new features to the engine.  These are very minor on the code side (literally 3-4 lines) but modders can get a lot of use out of them.  They are the ability to have conditional modifiers be based on the target or attackers stats, rather than be comparative.

Nerd stuff:

In Legendary Heroes you can create an ability that has a conditional comparative modifier, such as the Brute ability that gives +3 Attack when you are attacking someone who is lower level.  It is conditional because it only applies in some situations, and it is comparative because it compares the attacker’s level to the targets to see if it should be applied.

Which this change we can have conditional abilities for things beyond comparisons.  We can have a conditional bonus that is only applied when the target has less than 20 hit points (as with the new Death Blow ability) or a bonus that is given only when the attacker is above a certain level, is enchanted (if we created a unitstat to count enchantments and had every enchantment increment than unitstat), or is using a certain weapon (such as in the new Master Archer ability that gives the unit a critical hit bonus when wielding a bow).

I wanted to make sure to get in abilities that used the new feature both ways so that modders would have examples (and because they are fun).

On Thursday we will be releasing a new Leader Pack DLC for Legendary Heroes.  This adds a new sovereign from the lore of Elemental to each of the 10 base factions. This is the bulk of what I have been playing with for the past 2 months when I have been testing and balancing the game.  This will give you 10 more leaders to play as or against in your games.

With each of the leaders the goal is to make the experience different than playing with other leaders.  My favorite is Magesta. For those of you up on your Elemental lore you will know that Magesta is Procipinee’s daughter. So I wanted something that made her feel like a powerful caster, but giving her a lot of spells felt a little flat. Giving her attack magic didn’t feel very “Paridenish”.  Procipinee herself was always one of my favorite leaders because her crown broke a rule of the game and made her feel like she had a special proficiency with magic without being overpowering (as well as encouraging her players to really invest in enchantments and not be bled dry on mana for other spells because of it).

Magesta was the last leader I had to design, everyone else was ready (though one went through a redesign, which I’ll talk about later).  I just couldn’t find any combination of abilities that felt interesting for her.  I knew I should create a new ability for her, but for what? Create a new spell for her? Give her a bonus to her summons? I tested a lot of abilities and none of them really changed the way I played her. I was playing her like any other caster.

The trick came when I was in looking at the MeleeAppliesSpell code. We have some abilities that trigger a spell whenever you strike an opponent. The Frostborn ability does this to apply Slow every time the unit strikes an enemy. I began to think about what an ability that triggers a spell each time the unit casts a spell would look like and I had Magesta’s unique ability.

It’s called Lifeblood, each time Magesta casts a spell she is healed. That spell could be summoning an elemental or hasting an ally, each spell doubles as a heal spells for Magesta.  When I played with this I found myself timing my spell casting more carefully. I would attack with my melee attack instead of summoning an elemental to allow my enemy to get a swing at me first, then summon the elemental to take advantage of the healing. When I realized I was playing her differently than other leaders I knew I had a good ability.

After Magesta I thought I was done. I wrapped the DLC pack, sent it to QA and started inviting others to play. One of those was Adam Biessener, our brand manager, marketing guy and all around strategy game nerd.  Adam gave great feedback but he didn’t think that Moria, Queen of the Gandru (our new Umber leader) was good enough. Moria established power by rallying bandit groups and umber tribes under her banner. She wasn’t the most powerful of the leaders, but she is sneaky and ruthless. Adam remarked that LH lacked a good thief archtype in its leaders and he thought Moria would be a good place to add that. Since Adam always likes to suggest solutions when he points out problems he also recommended a new roguish ability for her, that she have a chance to get better items from goody huts. I got the ability in and a few hours later we were play testing with her, it felt great and though she can be unbalanced (we put a lot of work into pacing out what random items you find and when, and she breaks those rules) she is fun to play.

One of the challenges in providing new leaders for a game that allows (if not encourages) you to make your own leaders is that it may be viewed as being lower value. After all you can fairly easily make 10 new leaders on your own with the tools we have provided. But even in that case you can take advantage of the DLC. All of the new leader abilities have been added to the sovereign creator. There are new abilities like Lifeblood and Treasure Finder. There are new items and equipment in sovereign customization. And even if you never play as the new leaders, it’s fun to find new enemies to play against.

I look forward to getting it released this week and I hope you have as much fun with the patch and the DLC as I have.